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Relief from the Arch of Titus, showing The Spoils of Jerusalem being brought into Rome

Video transcript

we're looking at a bar reliefs of the archer Titus the most famous of which show the spoils of Jerusalem being brought into Rome in the great triumphal parade honoring the general soon-to-be emperor Titus at his great victory at destroying Jerusalem a triumphal arch is something through which the Emperor would enter with booty with lots of attendants and soldiers and prisoners of war I mean this was a big moment of celebrating victory in Rome at the end of which the general of the losing army would be ceremonially murdered did that happen at this yes a guy named Simon son of Gera who was one of the rebels of Jerusalem was killed at the end in art history when we look at the arch of Titus relief we sometimes miss the violence and we tend to talk about it formally because in so many ways it exemplifies ancient Roman art the figures are naturalistic there's even an illusion of space as these soldiers carry the booty from the temple in Jerusalem through a gate of the city well we're very fortunate that the Jewish war had its historian Joseph son of Mattathias and Hebrew Flavius Josephus in Latin he was Judean general who switched sides in the middle of the war and was supported by the Emperor's family to write the history to convince Jews to not be part of this war and to convince Romans that only a small part of the Jewish people were revolting against Rome and so Josephus is standing at the moment of this triumphal parade watching it with ultimate perplexity I think not knowing which side he was on and so what we see here is the unique situation where a Roman triumphal parade is responded to by someone who understands the triumph and suffers the triumph at the same time Josephus Josephus the Roman Empire is growing in the first century and the Romans are moving into what we would call the Middle East and the province of Judea Judea becomes absorbed into the Roman Empire Judea has polytheist and has Samaritans people whose holy mountain is in what's now Nablus and lots and lots of Jews and the Jews and the Samaritans are not so happy about these pagans coming into their country and taking over their holy land and the complexities of interaction boiled in such complex ways and so we're watching a culture figuring out what it means to work with this very peculiar group with its one temple for the one God and that one temple is in Jerusalem in Jerusalem in that temple are holy objects where most people's would have a different temple in each city so there'd be a temple for my god here and I go to another city there be another God Jews only had one and so they had special rights for example in the Roman Empire to send back their donations from wherever they lived to Jerusalem where other people weren't allowed to send money across international lines the Romans worked to find a way to take these people who had the potential of being good subjects but had certain odd needs at their temple and they insisted upon circumcising their children and they had food laws and they had a thing called a Sabbath and all of these were very weird to Roman's in different ways they weren't all unique to June so for example Egyptians would circumcise as well but many of them were strange and Judean were so apparent because a religion of books and people could read them and so the complex problem led for example to the building of the temple in Jerusalem that by all intents and purposes looks like a Roman temple of the age of Augustus but has something odd about it and that is it has no statues no images of deities which Romans would say that's a Roman temple without the fun stuff without the things that are meaningful and Jews would say this is the Jerusalem Temple no images here but there were things in the temple there were holy objects and that's what we see here being carried into Rome as spoils in the arch of Titus so we have the menorah a very important symbol in Jewish history especially in the Roman period but we see other holy objects that were in the temple like the show table table for the showbread or the table for the bread of the face of God this bread that the Pentateuch that the Torah says should be set before God and 12 breads placed upon it and continued to be used not the same table but replacement tables until we come to the one that's Illustrated on the arch which is a typical Roman table we're gong Jews would have put the images of their divinities Jews put their holy objects that serve to the divinity but when the Romans came in and took Judea the last of the Jewish kings a fellow named Mattathias Antigonus minted a coin and on one side there was a menorah and the other side was the table after a long and terrible war with the Jews fighting against Roman occupation we have the most holy objects taken from the most holy place shown as pure booty the cool thing is that you could leave the arch of Titus walk under it go a hundred or so yards and enter into a temple built by the Emperor dissipation Titus's father where the greatest art of the age had been collected in a way to claim the greatness of Rome in a dissipation and on one of the pedestals see the self-same lamp stand and the same table and the same horns and so it was possible go back and forth between the real objects described in Josephus is text and shown in the arch and then into this ancient museum but not a museum like our museums a museum of war booty and of trophies collected by a man who was about to become a God himself so it's a deeply meaningful procession for Romans but for Jews it must have been ghastly you